Financial Folds: Making Markets, Remaking the Social

PUrSI Co-Investigator Paul Langley delivers his lecture, Financial Folds: Making Markets, Remaking the Social, as part of the ‘Frontier Regions of Global Finance‘ series at Goethe University, Frankfurt.

Watch the lecture here.


During the global financial crisis, market innovation was criticised for fuelling speculative excesses that lacked social utility and enriched social elites. A set of financial markets have now emerged that are explicitly differentiated by their ostensible social qualities and potentials. Finance is recast as a force for social good. In markets for social impact bonds, for example, the social refers to what is being financed: public policy interventions designed to address the social problems of a particular place. In crowdfunding and peer-to-peer markets, meanwhile, the social refers to how finance is raised: the mobilisation of the sociality of local and digital community relations.  By analysing the remaking of the social that these marketizations entail, the paper will contribute to two critical debates about markets. First, the making of markets is widely explained as processes replete with tendencies to disembed economy from society and thereby proliferate matters of social concern. The paper explores how the social is now variously enrolled in financial markets, hybrid processes that combine marketization with socialization and generate particular and depoliticized meanings of the social. Second, the making of markets is typically explained as expansionary processes that confront and cross boundaries, both territorial and imagined. The paper develops Gilles Deleuze’s concept ‘the fold’ to further critical understanding of how financial markets criss-cross the economy/society boundary. Financial folds are myriad seams of inflection, spaces where the social purpose and content that is typically lacking from financial markets is spliced and stitched back into their speculative excesses.